New media students contribute to construction of virtual wild blueberry museum

A group of 23 students from University of Maine new media professor Joline Blais’ digital narrative course has been working on a prototype for a virtual wild blueberry museum.

The virtual museum would extend the work begun by the existing Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls, created by Marie and Dell Emerson. Dell had previously been a researcher for UMaine Cooperative Extension at the Blueberry Hill Farm facility in Jonesboro. Dell and Marie also have spearheaded a project to build a physical Wild Blueberry Museum for Washington County. This project has received lead funding from a regional donor, and plans are underway for its development.

Students have interviewed wild blueberry farmers in Washington County about their personal experiences and memories to contribute to the project.

Ashley Duggan, the lead student of the project, received the 2017 DownEast Acadia Tourism Student Award for her work in leading student interview teams and building a web portal for the video and photo documentaries created in the course.

Wild lowbush blueberries are the only wild food crop that is harvested commercially in the United States. The industry is undergoing economic and ecological changes, in particular affecting family farms passed down through generations.

The virtual museum’s mission is to “tell the ‘Great American Story’ of the history of the origins and industry” through stories from these family farms, according to the organization’s website, and also serve as a prototype and companion for the proposed physical museum.

The virtual museum is predicted to open in 2018, with the prototype available by May.